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Friends, Family Remember Pilot Killed in LifeFlight Crash

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DURHAM — As investigators look what caused this week's fatal crash of Duke's LifeFlight II helicopter, friends and family gathered Saturday to remember the pilot who lost his life.

Mourners filled the Church of the Good Shepard in Durham to celebrate the life of John Holland, the 39-year-old pilot who died in Monday night's helicopter crash. They remembered Holland as a family man, a skilled pilot and a devout Christian.

"I'll forever feel proud, privileged and honored to call him a friend," a Lifeflight pilot said as he fought back tears.

The 39-year-old husband and father of three children died Monday night doing what he loved -- flying a helicopter for Duke University Medical Center.

"It was just a shift like any other," says flight nurse Remi Hueckel. "He was excited. He was ready to go."

Hueckel was with Holland aboard the helicopter Monday night. The crew was on a mission to the Alamance Regional Medical Center to pick up a patient.

Holland suspected something was wrong. When they landed, Holland instructed the rest of the crew to stay on the ground.

After calling a mechanic and lifting off alone, Holland crashed in a Burlington neighborhood. In his final moments, he steered away from homes and toward an empty field.

"That's John at his highest," Hueckel says. "For people who didn't have the pleasure of knowing him the way we did, that final act was who he was -- taking care of other people."

Holland's passion to fly began in his days as a pilot for the Marine Corps. At the end of the memorial, Duke's other Lifeflight helicopter passed slowly over the church.

TheNational Transportation Safety Boardis still investigating the cause of the accident.


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